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Meaning Is The New Money

My research has clearly shown that high levels of engagement, and the associated discretionary effort, occur when our work experiences reflect a clear set of values that we share. For many today, meaning is the new money. It’s what people are looking for at work. Clear company values, translated into the day-to-day work experience, are one of the strongest drivers of an engaged workforce, one primed for successful collaboration.

As the old assumption that managers can “oversee” the quality of people’s work and pay more to motivate more falls away, the role of leadership shifts from adopting and enforcing best practices to crafting unique experiences that reinforce the organization’s values. It becomes less important to be all things to all people and more important to attract and retain people who value what you have to offer.

— Tammy Erickson, Meaning is the New Money, HBR

(Emphasis mine)

Erickson nails the new workforce in this article. First, she exposes two classic workplace myths that no long hold much water in today’s workforce: 

  1. If you can see your employees, they’re productive
  2. If you pay them more, they’ll work harder. 

Then she goes on to articulate that engaged employees offer more of their discretionary effort. And to engage employees you need to provide a meaningful place to work. Bam! Well done.

I would add that creating a workplace that has meaning — and where people thrive — isn’t limited to organizations like Doctors Without Borders. You don’t have to be solving world hunger to provide meaning at work. Engaged employees simply want to know how they can add value.

Organizational clarity is the key. Who are you? Why does the company exists? What do you value? And how can employees align to those values?

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